Dealing with illness and loss is never easy, but Philadelphia Theatre Company’s soul-stirring production of Bruce Graham’s latest award-winning work, THE OUTGOING TIDE, tackles the profound issue of quality of life versus delaying the inevitable with both laughter and insight.
Inspired in part by Graham’s experience with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s on his own father, the writing is personal, honest, and unerringly human. And it never lacks the Philadelphia playwright’s signature sense of humor—often dark and politically incorrect—that is essential to alleviate the pain of this all-too-real family crisis.
Director James J. Christy creates a seamless merger of past and present, as Graham’s emotionally complex, three-dimensional characters are revealed through their conversations and memories by a sterling three-person cast. Broadway’s Richard Poe, who recently lost his brother-in-law to the ravaging disease, plays the ailing Gunner. He masterfully exposes the frustrations, embarrassment, and misery of losing his faculties, along with his strength and determination to “tie up the loose ends” for himself and his family, by finding the best solution among no good options. Robin Moseley as Peg, his devoted wife of 50 years, is believably distraught over the reality before her, angry at herself for her rare moments of impatience, terrified by the thought of being alone, and ultimately selfless in her love and devotion. And local favorite Anthony Lawton, in one of the best performances of his career, is equal parts concerned and conflicted as their adult son Jack, caught off-guard by his parents’ momentous revelations in the midst of his own marital and parenting problems.
Set at their shorefront home on the Chesapeake Bay, the characters’ lives are poetically intertwined with the cycle of the seasons, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the fading light of late summer into autumn—all beautifully evoked by David Gordon’s set design, R. Lee Kennedy’s lighting, and Bart Fasbender’s sound. And though we all know that aging, debility, and death are part of the natural progression of life, the play expressly ponders humankind’s fear and inability to let go when confronting the inescapable.
THE OUTGOING TIDE is universal, it’s compelling, and it’s eminently entertaining; and that’s a combination not to be missed.
THE OUTGOING TIDE
Written by Bruce Graham
Directed by James J. Christy
March 23-April 22, 2012
PTC’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre
480 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
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